Light aspen leaves whispered drowsily overhead, and through them a piercing autumn sky could be seen. Light cirrus clouds froze in height. It was quiet, no birds were heard. The air was filled with the spicy smell of leaves, moss, earth and blood.
The girl turned back. Everywhere broken, spattered with scarlet and brown spots of the body. Light chain mail, shining in the sun. Deadly white faces. Eyes wide in horror, completely blind. Everyone has frighteningly white hair. An overturned wagon a little further. Several female bodies nearby. The girl staggered, turned away sharply, which made everything dark and swam before her eyes for a moment.
Step, one more.
Farther and farther away from that glade saturated with the smell of death. Sharp pain. The girl took a deep breath, pressing her hands to her stomach. Scarlet spots were slowly spreading across the light blue dress. Step, one more. A stubborn breath.
”Not today. I won die today. ”
Pain. Step, one more. Bloody path on the leaves. Heart beat. Calm. ”I will not die ”. Quiet whisper of aspens. There is almost no wind. Silence. Only short breath. Step. One more… Break. An icy, crystal clear stream below.
A sudden thought: ”I will cross the water and I will live. ” Step. There are no forces at all. She can go down that slope. Cold. The pain is almost gone. Strange calmness. Movement on the other side. People. Where are people from? Sun in the eyes. Only two silhouettes are visible. Exclamation. Surprised. Noticed?
Legs buckled – no more strength. The pain returned. The soft rustle of leaves behind you. Strange whistling breathing. She already heard him. A quiet, vile scream, penetrating to the very bones. She came for her. She is her prey. Do not cross the water, did not have time. ”Let. Let him take it. I can not anymore… ”
A cry from the other side. Death is very close. Bad breath nearby. No courage to open your eyes. Let. Someones voice. What he says?
Sharp light, whistle, wind. Squeal. Chilling squeal, scream, hiss. Emptiness. Silence. Cold. Steps. Hot touch to the face. Strange voices.
The girl hardly opened her eyes. Two men. Reddish hair. Both have green eyes. ”Brothers? Similar ”. One said something, the other looked at him. A strange reflection of the eyes in the sun. The quiet sigh of a girl. Last thought: ”Markat. And the second one too. I can live. ”
A soft veil of darkness gently covered her. ”Its over. ”
”We need to get back before dark, ” Aznar said, climbing a small slope already covered with pale yellow leaves. Autumn came too early this year. The breath of winter has not yet been felt, but nature has already begun to slowly fade. -Something is wrong in this forest.
– Did you feel it too? Beria stopped. – Its too quiet in here.
– Smells like a threat. From there, – Aznar waved his hand forward.
Farther on, the air was colder and damper, there must be water nearby. The men went ahead and soon came to the bank of the cliff. Below, a slow, icy stream flowed. The forest on the other side changed dramatically. Here – pines and firs, a thick smell of pine needles, a few birches. In the same place – a solid cold silvery aspen forest.
-Theres definitely something wrong. – Aznar intensely peered at that shore. -There is such a danger that it hurts teeth. No wonder we decided to check the border.
-What do you think it is? – Beria stood next to his older brother.
-Quiet! Aznar suddenly commanded, fading.
Slow footsteps were heard on the other side. A girl walked slowly to the edge of the cliff. White-white face, lips bitten to the blood. Blood stains on the dress and on the arms. Long ashy hair, also covered in blood. She was clearly dying.
The brothers didn move, looking at her intensely. The danger was getting stronger. But it wasn the girl. She reached the edge and fell.
– We need to help her. – Hesitantly began Beria.
”Stop, ” Aznar growled, not taking his eyes off the other bank. – Shes an anmark. The Anmars are our enemies. And behind this cliff is their land.
But she will die. – objected Beria.
– Will die. – Exactly said brother.
Bery again looked at the other bank and shuddered all over, alert.
From the forest appeared something that carried danger. Huge, dark carcass. Small silver eye beads. Bloodied mouth. Silent ugly screech. Undead. Fat, beefy undead. Right on the border. She cannot cross pure flowing water, but she did not come for this. She came for the girl.
A cool wind blew from the other side, indifferently and thoughtfully rustling the leaves, dropping them into the water. Aznar suddenly inhaled sharply and exhaled with a strange half-groan-half-groan. His pupils dilated, chained to the figure on the other side. Bery turned around in astonishment, and his brother was already removing the family amulet from his neck. He aimed it at the creature and began to cast an ancient spell of banishment. Bery stepped back a little, giving him more space. The ground underfoot began to tremble, the air thickened around Aznar, hummed dully, the amulet slowly flared up, brighter and brighter. Then a blinding ray of light shot out of it, hitting the undead on the other side, causing the creature to squeal. She moved her paws, trying to block out the light, but she couldn . The sharp smell of singed wool and flesh hit his nostrils. Beri winced. The creature moved farther away – in here – rushed to the leak, with a disgusting screech. Aznar slowly lowered the red-hot amulet. He was breathing heavily, wasting his strength.
-Why did you do that? – Beria looked at his brother. ”You were going to let her die.
”Yes, ” Aznar replied. – But something has changed.
In one big leap, Aznar ended up on the other side, in a foreign land. Beria hesitated and followed him. No man could so easily jump over this cliff, and even land so softly. But the Markats were not people.
As soon as Beria touched the ground with his feet, he took a deep breath. Smell is one of the most important senses of the Markats, no less important than sight. From the smell they could count a lot. Bery felt the disgusting smell of burnt flesh and wool, the smell of forest and aspens, the smell of blood and … the man froze, unable to move. For he smelled the most incredible fragrance. Thin and sweet, intoxicating, desirable. Unique. The smell of the one that was intended only for him. He approached the motionless female body, next to which Aznar was already standing. He slowly touched the cold white face, smooth and delicate skin, inhaling more and more of this amazing aroma.
– Felt it? Aznar asked in a kind of tense tone.
”Yes… ” Beria whispered softly. – But how is this possible? Shes an Anmark!
At that moment, the girl abruptly opened her eyes. They were clean, blue, with small silvery patches. Bery and Aznar looked at her at the same time. The girl exhaled quietly, and the men managed to see fear, doom and disgust in her eyes. Then the girl lost consciousness.
”She is Lanaren—destined, ” Aznar said quietly.
”Its impossible, ” repeated Beria, looking at the bloodless face. – Lanaren can be only one for one man. But I see that you feel the same as me!
Beria almost growled the last words.
”Instincts cannot be deceived by sorcery or anything else, ” Aznar said thoughtfully, ignoring his brothers reaction. – She is Lanaren for me and Lanaren for you. The Blessed One chose her for us.
-But thats a joke! – Bery tore at the bloody dress, revealing a terrifying lacerated wound on the girls stomach. Four deep claw marks. Even if she survives, she won be able to have children anymore. Do you think the Goddess wants the ruling family of the Markats to be left without heirs?
”I don know what the Fair One wants, ” Aznars voice sounded cold. But her gifts are not rejected. He bent down and easily picked up the bloodied female body. – Its time for us to go back. It will soon start to get dark.
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